ELTE BTK Magyar Nyelvtudományi és Finnugor Intézet

Klavan, Jane (Tartu)

nyomtatható változat

Factors that Influence the Choice between Synthetic and Analytic Locative Constructions in Estonian

In Estonian, we have several ways to express spatial relations – we can use locative cases or adpositional constructions. The present paper builds on previous research on this topic (Klavan et al. to appear) and the aim is to determine what extra-linguistic factors influence the choice between the synthetic locative constructions with the adessive case (example 1a) and the analytic locative constructions with the adposition peal (example 1b). The language data analysed comes from corpora and linguistic experiments. The paper proceeds from the theoretical premises of both Construction Grammar (Goldberg 1995, 2006) and Cognitive Grammar (Langacker 1987, 2008), where one of the basic general assumptions is that of no-synonymy – when two constructions differ syntactically, then they also differ either semantically or pragmatically (Goldberg 1995: 67).

(1)     a.     vaas         on         laual
vase:nom     be-prs:sg3     table:ade
‘the vase is on the table’
b.    vaas         on         laua         peal
vase:nom     be-prs:sg3     table:gen     on
‘the vase is on the table’

Previous research has shown (Klavan et al. to appear) that although the Estonian locative cases and adpositional constructions are said to “express more or less the same meaning” (Erelt et al. 1995: 34), there are differences in how language speakers actually use these constructions. Klavan et al. (to appear) report the results of a forced choice task and a production task carried out with 138 native speakers of Estonian, aged between 15 and 71. The results of these studies confirm that the type of relation between the Figure and Ground plays a role:  when the relation is abstract, the preferred choice is the adessive case; when we have a spatial scene, where the relation is non-canonical (e.g. a book on top of an alarm-clock), the language users prefer the adpositional construction. However, with canonical spatial scenes (e.g. a vase on the table), the picture is not as clear-cut: both the adessive case and the adpositional construction were used in the two studies with more or less the same frequency.

In order to determine what factors play a role in canonical spatial relations, a corpus analysis and further linguistic and meta-linguistic studies were devised. The present paper reports the results of these studies; it is hypothesised that the potential factors that may influence the choice include the following: the word order of the clauses where the adessive or the adpositional construction is used (existential vs. normal clauses), morpho-phonological properties of the locative phrase (the lexical complexity and length of the phrase), idiolect and dialectal preferences of individual speakers, language history, and the properties of the Figure and Ground used in the locative phrases (e.g. animacy, number, and the type of the Ground).   

Language of the presentation: English

Erelt, M., Kasik, R., Metslang, H., Rajandi, H., Ross, K., Saari, H., Tael, K. and Vare, S. 1995. Eesti keele grammatika I. Morfoloogia. [The Grammar of Estonian I. Morphology.] Tallinn: Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia Eesti Keele Instituut.
Goldberg, A. 1995. Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to Argument Structure. USA: University of Chicago Press.
Goldberg, A. 2006. Constructions at Work: The Nature of Generalization in Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Klavan, J., Kesküla, K. and Ojava L. To appear. Synonymy in Grammar: The Estonian Adessive Case and the Adposition peal ’on’. In S. Kittilä, K. Västi and J. Ylikoski (eds.), Studies on Case, Animacy and Semantic Roles. John Benjamins.
Langacker, R. W. 1987. Foundations of Cognitive Grammar. Volume I: Theoretical Prerequisites. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Langacker, R. W. 2008. Cognitive Grammar. A Basic Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.